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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

238                              THE GAY GENIUS

hours, Su went from room to room, chatting and cracking jokes and
generally making it impossible for them to attend to their duties. Then
at night he would do his own work, going through the papers with'
great rapidity.

There were many tales of how he made up stories on the spot. Many
of these contain puns, particularly those in which he exchanged re-
partee with another great wit, Liu Pin. But there are some stones
which can be translated into English. .

Once Su Tungpo went to call on Lu Tafang, who was then premier.
Lu was a very fat person, and was taking an afternoon nap when Su
Tungpo called. Su was kept waiting a long time and felt annoyed. At
last Lu appeared. Su Tungpo pointed to an earthen basin in the living-
room in which was kept a tortoise with moss on its back.

"That's nothing rare," said Su Tungpo to his host. "What is really
difficult to obtain is a tortoise with three pairs of eyes."

"Is that so?" said Lu, with wide open eyes. *"Is there such a thiflji
as a six-eyed tortoise?" Lu had a feeling that he was being fooled; but
then, Su Tungpo was such a widely-read man and he might have read
about it somewhere.

"Certainly," replied Su Tungpo. "In the time of Emperor Tsung of
Tang, he once received a six-eyed tortoise as a present from a minister.
On being asked what was the virtue of a six-eyed tortoise, the minister
replied that a six-eyed tortoise had three pairs of eyes, while a commom
tortoise had only one. Therefore, you see, when a six-eyed tortoise* takes *
a nap, it is equal to the nap of diree tortoises put together."

Su Tungpo used to boast to his friend Chien Shieh how he loved
tl^e simple life he used to lead in the country. He said that at dinner
they had only rice, turnips, and a plain soup; nevertheless, he was
thoroughly happy and contented. One day his friend Chien sent him
an invitation to dinner, which read: "I am going to give you some-
thing special. We shall have a 'whitewhytewhight' dinner." Su Tungpo
had never heard of such a thing and could not make out what it meant.
When he came to the dinner he found that Chien offered him a very
simple dinner with only three white things on the table, a bowl of
white, rfce, a dish of white turnips, and a bowl of colourless soup.
Reminded of his boast, Su realised that he had been fooled* Su Tungf||f
allowed some time to elapse, and then sent Chien also an invitation
asking him to attend a "noughnoknow" dinner. When Chien appeared,
he found a bare table. Su Tungpo invited him to sit down and £he two
sat down. After a long while, still no dishes appeared, and Chien com-
plained tkat he was getting hungry. Very pompously Su Tungpo said,
to Ms friend: "Let's start without waiting. I have invited you to a
bowl of 'no* rice, some *nough* turnips, and 'know1 soup." After Su